Review: Akroydiesel Age
Hello everyone, today I have a review of another RPG for you guys to check out. This one is of a genre I enjoy but do not find myself foraying into all the often. Akroydiesel Age is a dieselpunk RPG by Leland Andercheck using a unique system and alternate history setting. Let’s take a look, shall we?
The world of Akroydiesel Age is one set in an alternate North America centered mostly around what was once the United States. The setting seems to assert itself as a fairly classic example of early 1900s mixed with advanced technology, though it is made clear that this isn’t an alternative 1900s but something far into the future. It is a point at which life has come around back to something akin to that era but with touches of advanced technology. I like the concept, especially given my recent foray back into the universe of Bioshock which is loaded with technologically advanced dieselpunk. One of the more appealing aspects of the game, thanks to its genre, is that players are expected to scavenge for materials. It reminds me of Fallout in that way but without all the nuclear waste and radiation-based items. Creature stats even include the types of things you are likely to get from them. In general, there is a wonderful little feeling that seems to mix things like Fallout and Mad Max that seeps through the game. I would definitely enjoy playing in a setting like this.
This game is rife with pages and clocks in at over 300 in the PDF. At first I was worried about going through all of it (large books have lots to cover), but things changed a bit as I started the process. I preface this by saying I have mixed feelings about the game. The mechanics are fairly basic and work off percentile rolls. For those unfamiliar with such systems you have a target to hit based on a skill number that exists between 1 and 100. The higher your skill the more likely you are to succeed since the goal is to roll below that number. This target may be adjusted by various aspects including difficulty. I’ve always appreciated this style system as working directly on percentile scales can be pretty easy to work with on the fly.
For Akroydiesel Age the system seems to be made from scratch with certain features being baked in. There are attributes that define the person and influence skills and secondary attributes. Similar to other games, this comes with a lot of crunch and a robust way to build your characters. Unlike other games, I think the rule set here doesn’t have as strong a backbone. There are various aspects that work and interact, but math is thick through the pages and some things could be better realized. It gets bogged down by the calculations and layers that exist. Though this might not be a problem once you get through it (I can’t be sure without actually playing it) it feels like character generation might include a bit of a math slog.
The best way I can describe this is how I felt going through the rules. At first it felt like a robust percentile game like those of Palladium, similar to games like TMNT & Other Strangeness. After a while I got another feeling that only deepened the further in I got. It was the same feeling I had as I was trying to parse out Shadowrun the first time I played. As much as I enjoyed Shadowrun. much of me playing it included help from my GM, the internet, and some slimming down on the amount of calculations and rolls required. Akroydiesel could benefit from a lot of this. Streamline and simplify some calculations and maybe get rid of things that the users don’t need. Training seems to be based of a high magnitude of practice that the book even tells you to never count in-game because that’s foolish. Instead you use a set of training mechanics based off those numbers. So, do we really need those engine numbers up front or at least need so much detail about them?
The book took me less time than expected to go through not just because the rules were at a complexity I did not wish to intimately familiarize myself with (no time for a one-shot). The other part was the host of options available at the table. For the type of setting and game this RPG wants you to enjoy, these options are crucial and wonderful. The only section lacking in this regard was enemies, though more on the wildlife / mutant side than NPCs. There were lots of good NPCs. For a game featuring salvage mechanics and the expectation to leave safe city life and journey out to collect supplies and old technologies, there NEEDS to be a great amount of options for things to find, breakdown, or build. From weapons to tools to vehicles, it is all there!
That being said, it needs some work. There is a lack of art which is okay for now. Art costs money and can be tough to fill into a book, especially that big of a book. Fonts were good and everything was, for the most part, legible. The layout design needs some heavy revising though. Certain areas break into two columns randomly and are so close together they can read as one jumbled mess if you aren’t careful. Tables are not consistent in format, design, or sizing and not all of them are as readable as the rest. I would very much like to see this cleaned up and reproduced in one, consistent, legible format.
The TL;DR of Akroydiesel Age is that it feels like (and I am gathering is) a work in progress. This might not be a first rules draft but seems to be the first draft of a produced, collected rule book. There are TONS of lore and material to use and the whole thing seems to be impressively done by one person. The author is continually creating more and adding to the game and I truly hope they keep it up and continue to refine this game. Cut out the rules fat, streamline a couple things, make sure the lengthy and robust character development is distinct and separate from play at the table (hopefully quicker), and improve the basic layout design. The product has a lot of potential. Work on some of this and it could be incredible. I look forward to seeing future iterations!